Posted in Socio-Cultural

When Casteism And Racism Meant Business

Chanced upon this interesting and intriguing argument on casteism and racism prevalent in India and across the world in general, in social media recently. Apparently racism as well as casteism meant economic prosperity to a section of community at the cost of others’ (subjugated). Never thought of it this way until now but then, how come we missed something that was right before our eyes all these years…

Racism in America led to American prosperity with the African blacks brought to the continent as bonded slaves to work their ranches and cotton fields. Cheap labour was also the need of the hour when the great American railway was laid across the country for thousands of miles. It meant, a section of humanity (or was it humanity at all) prospered at the expense of the most vulnerable and gullible.

Same holds true for colonization of most Asian nations and African countries and Latin America by Europeans. Paying bare minimum and extracting maximum became the economic principle for profiteering for which playing the racial card suited best. Substitution of native faiths and belief systems with Abrahamic Christianity and Islam made the colonized develop low self esteem.

India hardly fared better when it came to discrimination among sons of the soil. Whereas the Europeans practised segregation and racism only with the alien they conquered, in India, casteism was thrust upon unsuspecting fellow sons of the soil on basis of birth citing scriptures even as Hindu Dharma remained freewill and not an organized religion. Such a way of life must have only united us more as humans than dividing. I am perplexed that injustice was allowed at all to thrive for millennia. Upper castes hugely benefited by consigning menial and low paying works to the suppressed classes. What are the communities that dwelt in the city center with access to resources such as temple tanks, wells etc., for centuries. There are Agraharas, Vanniya (Baniya) streets, Chetti streets, Mudali streets, etc. typically around any ancient temple (even today). The city/town/village plan was thus devised that the social hierarchy prevailed in the townplanning. Social hierarchy also directly correlated to one’s wealth and landholdings. However the scheduled castes/tribes never were residents of structured city planning in Indian history. Was this not landgrabbing at all, confining the poorest and weakest to the fringes of our civil society. Today we talk of landgrabbing by criminal gangs and vested interestes. Is it really landgrabbing or taking back one’s denied share to prime property. (Here we can find parallels with even reservation in education and government jobs.) Can you find an old mansion that ancestrally belonged to Dalit community in the city center of any of India’s towns or villages or cities. Some hotcake real estate that was in their families for generations like many of us may boast of until today. It has been possible for them to live within city limits only in last 50 years. Bhoodhan movement led by Shri Vinoba Bhave played an effective role in just and equitable redistribution of landholdings to marginal farmers in India’s poorest districts in post-independence era.

Like real estate holdings, education is merely another arena where the privilege of learning was hard fought and won for some communities. Reservation quotas came into force for this reason. But why should that surprise us when even the right to worship had to be legally sanctioned for this lot. The heroes who championed such a noble cause are today character assassinated every single day in our social media, with their good work conveniently brushed under the carpet.

Anyway. Tides are turning. Nature has a way of correcting imbalances with its own checks and readjustments. I am a firm believer in Karma and Dharma. Let not at the same time, asserting and reclaiming one’s rights become justification for vandalization, arson and rowdyism on part of the scheduled communities. Whatever said, one cannot turn back the clock. Frustration and bitterness can well be channelized into beneficial pursuits of development and progress.

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My recommendations:

Twelve year a slave (Hollywood)

Pariyerum Perumal (Tamil)

I respect the way the heroes in these two flicks handled discrimination and injustice and at the same time ensured that they did not get consumed by hate in the process of reclaiming their rights. There is a rare dignity in both of the characters.

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